While each day provides new, and often conflicting, headlines on Washington conservatives’ continuing refusal to raise the debt ceiling we think it’s important to provide some basic information about the role (or lack thereof) Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid play in the debt.

Too many in Washington seem ready, willing and eager to trade away life-saving benefits for millions of Americans and their families in closed-door debt deals crafted with the 2012 election in mind. Whether it’s cutting COLA’s, a Balanced Budget Amendment, spending caps, benefit cuts or killing Medicare in favor of CouponCare–there seem to be far more proposals that attack vital safety net programs than truly address our current fiscal mess.Here’s a basic guide designed to help you understand what many of these proposals will mean for America’s seniors, the disabled and their families.